Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shepherdly duties

I respect that many of my readers might not be meat eaters and I don't begrudge that, nor do I ever question their choice. Part of the reason I write this blog is to share my journey at Apifera with myself. One can choose to read this post or not, but please respect another's life choice if you choose to comment. Thank you.

Today was harvest day for the meat lambs. I did normal barn routines, and brought them to a cool and shady holding pen. I have a ritual of sitting with them briefly thanking them for the good work they've done and how we appreciate it so very much.

This year for the first time, I stayed with the lambs and held each one so the butcher could just take them with less stress for the actual butchering - a quick slit to the throat, through the vertebrae so the brain shuts down. I can't say enough good things about our butcher. But after eight years of hospicing ill animals and watching many die their natural deaths, this year I knew I had to watch the process of my sheep dying after their slaughter. This was part of my personal evolution as a farmer...and for me, part of my responsibility of someone who wants to eat her own farm's meat. It is only right I am here for them in their last breath, as I am there for them at their first breath.

I've said this many times, raising your own meat is a process, for some of us it involves sorting through conflicts. I have evolved over the past eight years of shepherding and each year I have come closer to my quest for comfort in being a meat eater. When we moved here, I decided I only wanted to eat meat we needed and grew ourselves. I was a vegetarian for over seven years, as was Martyn at one time, and we still maintain a 50% vegetarian eating habits. We also buy farm raised chicken from local farmers a few times a year.

Some of you have watched me evolve from angst meat eater to being more accepting of the annual harvest day as part of the cycle of farming and this time has allowed me to formulate a very clear understanding of myself in this universe. I know if I were a bird, the cat would eat me, or a car windshield would, if I was a deer, man would shoot me or the coyote might. The chickens eat the worms that some say have no faces but I doubt that. The rabbits eat the garden veggies that many say don't feel pain when ripped from their stalks, but I doubt that too. I'm at the top of the food chain for now, and I feel better when I get meat in my body. And I want to be there on its birthday and death day. And I have been.

There is always a 'feeling' on harvest day, before the truck arrives. After all, I know something my animal doesn't. But I felt no remorse. I saw my animals die fast, and I watered their blood into the compost area where the chickens stood waiting. I partook in the annual traditions of carrying the livers back to the house and fried them with butter and onions.  It's a serious day, but it's a grateful day for us too.


Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about meat a lot lately too. We normally used to eat some chicken and then my husband would eat some pork at my parents' for certain occassions. I have gotten to where I don't want to eat it unless I know how it was raised. Watching Food Inc. sure didn't help either and seeing a customer supported pasture nearby which does an awesome job with their animals. It's great that you are more comfortable with it and the whole cycle.

marta traughber said...

I like your way of being a meat eater.

Christine said...

I, too, am raising animals for meat, but have only just begun. Thank you for expressing just how I feel about my journey.


Christine said...

I have just begun a small farm to raise animals for food. Thank you for expressing just how I feel.

Ruth's spot said...

your post brings to mind the day, long ago, when my new partner, a hunter, brought home a deer and I helped to dress and hang it. I took the heart into the kitchen and cooked it with garlic and tears. Life is a bloody, heart-breaking, sacred miracle...for all creatures.

Jane Davies said...

Thanks for expressing these thoughts! I hate the vegetarian/meat eater divide, and have been a mindful, responsible meat eater for years. I'm lucky to have access to small farms that raise meat responsibly, and I visit the animals I'm going to eat. I raised my own chickens last summer and again this summer. I do the harvest myself, and it is indeed an intense experience of heightened awareness. My birds are all in the freezer now, in Chicken Heaven, except, of course, for the laying hens, who are in Chicken Paradise.

Apifera Farm said...

Thanks for stopping in, everyone. I am always wary to bring this up online because like Jane says, just like politics these days, there seem to be extremist [many on either side who don't know at all what they are talking about due to lack of experience or fact] views on both sides. So thank you all for sharing.

Rhonda B. said...

I have great respect for your mindful approach to harvesting your animals. Cheers to you! You and Joel Salatin are my heroes!

coloredsock said...

it's been forever. i am taking a late night painting popcorn break. thought of you and came to your blog. you know i'm a vegetarian, and all i have to say is i have a ton of respect for you and how you birth, raise, and harvest your animals/animal meat. patrick and i have talked several times that if/when Tulsi decides to eat meat, we'd raise pultry and/or buy meat from a local farmer who farms with as much love and consciousness as you and Martyn. sending a bunch of love over this insanely beautiful starry night sky!

Cait said...

I too am raising lambs for the first time this year and felt a great deal of conflict when the first batch went in and about the next batch that will go soon. Thanks for this post; I know I'm not alone in my feelings and these perspectives help a bit in the process!

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~